The Picturesque Port to Port MTB stage race moved inland today to the world famous Hunter Valley wine growing region. Along with a fine drop of vino the area has some serious hills making it a stunning yet demanding area for cycling. Today’s stage took riders on a 50km trip over two categorised climbs and two partnered descents including the famous ‘Rabbit Hole Descent’. The first climb up to the Pokolbin ridge began less than 5km into the stage. With a 10km grind up dirt road and fire trail awaiting the elite field could sniff the potential to put big time gaps into rivals on today’s stage. The pace was subsequently on from the gun with numerous riders shelled from the first group in the opening kilometres. The pace been set by the Torq-Merida team, race leader Brendan Johnston and Mark Tupalski created a much smaller lead group. After the long first climb it was the opportune moment for those with superb bike handling skills to claw back some time. Tupalski showed why he is regarded as one of the country’s finest bike handlers with a very fast descent that brought him back to the leaders of Johnston, Standish and Ward. These four would duke it out to the finish with Brendan ‘Trekky’ Johnston again proving to be the best with nearly a minute back to Ryan Standish followed by Tristan Ward in 3rd and Mark Tupalski 4th. Standish who leaves for the USA to compete in 1 week’s time remarked “It was a great team ride by our boys, Tristan and I were really able to use some tactics in the final 10km. Full respect to Trekky he countered everything we threw at him.” Johnston retains the leaders jersey followed by Standish.
In the women’s race it was close at the pointy end of proceedings with Kathryn McInerny from Torq-Merida taking the win today but only by a matter of seconds ahead of Trek-Shimano’s Em Viotto making a close GC battle with a TT this evening and 2 more long stages ahead. Briony Mattocks had a superb ride taking 3rd today showing her prowess on the climbs. Tonight’s Time Trial takes riders on a 2.4km circuit around a golf course. With time bonuses and a large cash purse on offer it is sure to create some excitement for the elite field. Full results here.
With an afternoon of relaxing and perhaps sampling some of the local beverages riders are now gearing up for tomorrow’s ‘Queen Stage’ of 62km including the single trails of the world class Awaba mountain bike facility. This race will reward very genuinely the best all round rider at the end of the 4 days with a good mix of power, climbing, sprint and technical trails to test the riders.
With plenty more time to chill this afternoon it was a deliberation of wether to go ‘full gas’ with eating the many delicacies on offer in the region and completely stuff the stomach for the racing ahead. Or to be mindful of the plenty of hills to come and go pure athlete mode and not be tempted by the tasty menu’s of the region. The pictures of the tasty burgers won today!